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Proposed mosque settlement: more parking, less building

A model of the originally proposed Al Madany Islamic Center sits on the Concert Hall stage during a June 2012 Norwalk Zoning Commission public hearing.

NORWALK, Conn. – The following is a list of highlights of the Al Madany Islamic Center settlement plan the Zoning Commission will present at a Thursday, Sept. 4, public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. at Concert Hall. The commission will likely vote on the plan at the end of the hearing.

The full summary provided to NancyOnNorwalk by the city’s legal team is attached at the end, along with other documents.

Building

  • Al Madany agreed to reduce the useable space in the recreational building, and reduce the overall size of the building. The agreement includes a 46.7% reduction in usable floor area in rear building and a 26% reduction in usable floor area in overall building. The building would cover 23.88% of the property, down from 24.74%. Zoning regulations permit up to 25% coverage.
  • The recreational building will be reduced in total height by approximately 1.5 feet and in depth (east-west) by approximately four feet.
  • The floor area ratio, total useable floor area, lot coverage and massing of the recreational building all will decrease considerably.
  • The accessory space shall not be used to hold an unrelated concurrent event when the prayer hall in the mosque is being used, and it will not be used for overflow crowds during any scheduled prayer service.

Minaret

  • There will be no amplified or unamplified calls to prayer or broadcasts from the mosque’s minaret. Additionally, there will be no amplified calls to prayer from the outside of either building or from outdoors on the property.

Parking and Traffic

  • The Settlement Plan contains 135 on-site parking spaces (the original plan called for 89), including an at-grade parking deck within the rear building substituted in place of a full floor of useable space. All on-site parking spaces must be constructed before a certificate of occupancy may issue for either building.
  • Al Madany will communicate to all congregants and visitors, through appropriate written means and on-site signage, a prohibition on parking in the Stonegate Condominium (“Stonegate”) parking lot and on the street.
  • The city will post “No Parking” signs at appropriate locations along Fillow Street and North Taylor Avenue in the vicinity of the property.
  • In connection with the Islamic High Holy Days, Al Madany shall hold two prayer services in order to minimize the potential need for off-site parking. On the High Holy Days, Al Madany shall hire police or other appropriate officers to direct traffic on and around the property.
  • Al Madany shall use its best efforts to ensure that at least 30 overflow parking spaces are available whenever needed at United Congregational Church at 275 Richards Ave., or at a substitute facility deemed acceptable by the commission. Al Madany shall notify the Commission and submit confirmation of an alternative arrangement acceptable to the commission if the parking spaces at United Congregational Church are unavailable.
  • For events where attendance is likely to attract 350 or more people, Al Madany shall provide a shuttle vehicle to the United Congregational Church parking lot or equivalent substitute facility. Al Madany shall provide written notice to the City’s Planning and Zoning Department and the president of Stonegate at least five business days in advance of such large events or as soon as reasonably practicable.
  • In order to mitigate the required intersection sight distance, the city will install appropriate traffic calming measures subject to the approval of the city’s legal traffic authority. Such measures may include installation of stop signs at the intersection of Fillow Street and Steppingstone Road, and/or a raised intersection table at that location or at the proposed entrance to the property.

Other Terms

  • The proposed settlement agreement also contains a monetary payment to Al Madany. The monetary component is not being presented to the commission and will be considered at a later date by the Common Council, which has the authority to approve it. The Common Council will be asked to approve a payment of $145,000 to Al Madany, and the settlement agreement also provides for a contribution of $162,500 by the City’s insurance carrier, CIRMA, for a total payment to Al Madany of $307,500.

Settlement comparison chart

Settlement Review Comments

Settlement Terms

Comments

9 responses to “Proposed mosque settlement: more parking, less building”

  1. One and Done

    Norwalk got screwed here. I don’t care if it costs $10 million. We should fight this. Where are the freaks from the historical commission when you need them? Shouldn’t this house be a protected landmark for its architectural uniqueness?

  2. Non Partisan Voter

    @One – While the house is architecturally interesting, it does not have much, if any historical value associated with it. And, the Historical Commission has no jurisdiction over private property anyway, which this is. The Historical Commission can hold a demolition delay hearing if an objection to a demolition permit is filed. But, according to the last plan of record filed by Al Madanay, they are planning to preserve the house. If the new plan calls for razing the house, then feel free to file for a 90 day delay when they file for the demolition permit and request that the Historical Commission hold a public hearing, which they may choose to do or not do. Either way, whether a hearing is held or not, at the end of 90 days, the owner of any private property can go ahead and demolish whatever structure on their property that they want. Norwalk has very weak historic preservation laws when it comes to private property, which reflects the desires of the community to allow property owners to do whatever they want to their properties, including building a mosque.

  3. Mea

    Why is there a monetary settlement when houses of worship are exempt from taxes? Please explain.

  4. EveT

    What is the purpose of the public hearing? It sounds like the decisions are already made.

  5. peter parker

    This has been a big waste of time and money.. A joke!

  6. Mary

    I would like to first state that what I’m about to say is completly an opinion and should be taken as such. I apologize but I honestly don’t think that’s so much of a hassle or a fight would be happening if this was at church or synagogue that wanted to get put up. well I am NOT Muslim , I still believe they should be allowed to have a place of worship.there are multiple churches and synagogues in our city and other cities, I hate to think that the real reason behind all this opposition is pure and simple old fashioned stereotyping.I hope that lawmakers can put all of those poisonous thoughts off the table and give these people a chance that we have.

  7. Stan

    Mary:

    Apparently you do not live in this area. Nothing should be built there that would increase the traffic to this area.

    I know on a daily basis the near misses that occur at the North Taylor and Fillow Street intersection. Why rezone the property so maybe two homes could be built. Additional why should the City give revenues that would be paid for real estate taxes away as a Religious organization would be exempt. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  8. Suzanne

    The payments to Al Madany feels like extortion. Please note I say “feels like”. The point has been made that as a religious organization, they are tax exempt. Why should they get additional sums from the City for their choice to go with RLUIPA?
    *
    Mary, Stan has made a valid point that is shared by many in my neighborhood. I have not heard of one person expressing dislike for Muslims as a reason for objecting to a Mosque.
    *
    Every other religious organization in our area has a “campus” that accommodates all worshipers, associated traffic and activities. All are recessed from the streets on which they reside. All are on more appropriate acreage than this Mosque.
    *
    It has been written that the land was chosen to site the Mosque because it was cheap irregardless of its impact on the adjacent neighborhood. It is not a Muslim problem but a planning problem.
    *
    Everyone talks about revitalizing downtown and there are several buildings along Wall Street that could have been renovated to accommodate a Mosque with both the size requirements and parking. Instead, this group decided to site an over-sized building on a small piece of land smack dab inside a residential area. How would you like such a building next door to you?
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    I appreciate the Muslim culture and religion and would not object to a Mosque on an appropriate sized lot even if it was in a residential neighborhood like other religious facilities in West Norwalk.
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    As it is, this building creates congestion, shoe-horning a large facility, even if the footprint is within Zoning guidelines, that does not account for the height and overall bulk of the structure.
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    This is not “poison” or “stereotyping”. This is looking at Zoning with a clear head and saying, “This does not belong here.” Just like a school of the same size or condominiums of the same size or residences of the same size would not. This is simply a product of a law that should not apply and whose constitutionality is being questioned all across the country.
    *
    I feel like West Norwalk, a nice place with a bit more acreage per lot is being slowly encroached upon to somehow equalize Norwalk residential areas. This may be inaccurate (please note I say “I feel”) but, if anything, it makes me wonder why it is o.k. to continually develop any slice of land willy-nilly. The neighborhood is changing because of poor Zoning laws and, frankly, I don’t like it. If that is NIMBYISM, then so be it. But I pay taxes for this privilege so I don’t feel so bad about being wary of this seeming impulse on the part of the City and developers.

  9. Very Concerned Parent

    As an active mother in West Norwalk, I am so very concerned about the mosque being built in this location. My children ride their bicycles and walk to their friends’ houses in that area, and I walk through that area regularly – I am very concerned that with the new traffic patterns and hundreds of cars that will be coming and going to and from this location, that someone will get hurt! With all the pedestrian deaths due to car accidents lately, I cannot even believe Norwalk is allowing this enormous building to be constructed in this community where there are so many children and schools close by. Norwalk is a big city and I agree with Suzanne that there are many other places to build besides this residential neighborhood. We do not need hundreds of more cars to be passing through – this is an outrage on all levels. I am not opposed to people having a place to go to for worship -when I moved to Norwalk, I knew I was moving into a diverse city. The problem is the location, the size of the mosque on this piece of land and the amount of cars it’s going to bring in. Didn’t a church close down near 95 by the Norwalk Library on Belden/Mott? I just think there is a another location in this great city of ours more suited than building amongst residential houses. Would it not behoove Norwalk to make a deal with them and have them build closer to the updated West Avenue location where these folks can actually enjoy our city and all it has to offer and be right off the highway so it’s easy for all their members to get to? I wonder if they considered other locations in Norwalk or are they just focused on this spot…

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